Projectworks co-founders Julian Clarke, Matthew Hayter and Doug Taylor. Photo / Provided
A Wellington company with a novel approach to project management software has raised $3.5m in seed capital – which it says it will use for a US push and new AI
tools including one capable of identifying employee burnout.
Formed on the brink of the pandemic, Projectworks makes cloud-based software aimed at making it easier to run a mid-sized consulting or professional services business.
While project management software costs a penny, co-founder and chief executive Matthew Hayter says his startup has a few differences. It includes several features sometimes found in different software – timesheet, resource planning, revenue forecasting and expense management – in an all-in-one interface. And Hayter says the focus is on keeping it “plain and simple”, as well as cheaper than traditional alternatives.
The startup already promises to help you “keep people busy without burning them out” and “know before you go over your client’s budget.”
Hayter says some of the new capital will go towards implementing a backlog of wishlist features that will go further, in part using artificial intelligence.
One of the AI tools will focus on detecting employee burnout before it happens. Hayter says it will cover a range of metrics, which could include just how long it takes to complete a time sheet.
From a certain point of view, it’s a bit like Big Brother, but Hayter says it’s about spotting a staff member’s welfare issues or, say, indicators that they’re stretched between too many projects, before it becomes a serious issue – and they’re headed for the gate as part of The Big Resignation.
Another AI tool will predict what resources a project will need and where weak spots might appear, based on an automated analysis of past projects.
All comers are experimenting with AI, but Hayter says Projectworks’ usual competition “comes from people married to huge Excel spreadsheets that they’ve spent ages creating and hate to give up.”
Where does the money come from
The round was led by Lance Wiggs’ Punakaiki Fund, which invested $2 million. It also included $1.5 million raised through crowdfunding platform Snowball Effect and $490,000 contributed by Projectworks’ own management team.
Projectworks is still at a very early stage in its commercial life. But Hayter says he now has several hundred customers and has grown 170% over the past year.
Early adopters include Walkerscott, a specialist in Microsoft business applications, and Aware Group, a Microsoft partner whose customers include TVNZ, the NZ Defense Force and Vodafone NZ.
Projectworks kicked off, winning both the Xero Emerging App Partner of the Year and Microsoft Emerge X competition in 2020, and being a finalist for Xero’s Bell in 2021.
The quick start reflected that this was not the first time its founders had taken part in the rodeo.
Hayter and co-founders Doug Taylor and Julian Clarke all came from another successful tech company, Provoke Solutions, while sales manager Madeline Bakewell was at Payscale in the US, which she helped exit 300 million, and product manager Kathryn Taylor spent five years as a senior designer at Aussie tech darling Atlassian during its explosive growth phase.
The February 2022 documentation for the snowball effect increase indicates that Projectworks’ monthly revenue from its cloud-based subscription is now operating at an annualized revenue rate of $1.36 million, with a little less than $14 million projected by 2024.
“We’ve proven the model. Now we’re ready to scale up,” says Hayter.
Today, Projectworks has customers in 40 countries, but Australia accounts for around 50% of its revenue. Overall, around 80% of its revenue comes from outside New Zealand.
Now, “Breaking into the US is a big part of our plan because of the size of the addressable market,” says Hayter.
His company will hire staff to make it happen. It currently has a dozen employees, including three next week, and plans to hire six more over the next few months. The new roles will be part sales and part product development.
Working with other people’s products will remain a key part of Projectworks’ international expansion plans.
Although Australia has been his company’s largest market, Hayter says, “The UK is also growing rapidly, thanks to the strong presence of Xero. Building a strategic relationship with Xero pays dividends, as the Xero Marketplace acts as a fantastic lead generator. Projectworks also integrates with Xero rival MYOB, among other software ecosystems.
Hayter says “the pandemic has been neutral for us.” The outbreak has caused some companies to drag their feet on contracts, while others have accelerated their cloud migration plans.
But he also admits that given that his business hasn’t really experienced an environment other than Covid – it was only months in commercial launch mode before the coronavirus hit – it’s hard to say what impact the pandemic has had.
Notably, the Projectworks team is already back in the office – perhaps old-fashioned for a tech company.
“For product and engineering teams, being together just makes it easier to collaborate,” says the CEO. “With sales, it can be easier to work remotely.”
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